Cleaning House

This is the email I’ll be sending (or snail mail letter where they don’t accept emails) over the next week. Feel free to adapt it for your own use and send it out. This is an “all hands on deck” situation. Tough when we already had one going (Covid19), but there you are. Btw, if you ever lamented not living through the 1960s, congratulations! You made it!

I’ve been a vocal supporter of civil rights since college. It breaks my heart that we still have so much work to do to improve things, but then, improving humanity is much like housework — you have to attend to it regularly.

If the law isn’t applied fairly to people who don’t seem much like you, don’t expect it to be applied fairly to you. If there’s no justice for some of us, there’s none for any of us.

I don’t know what it’s like to live as a black or brown person in my country, but I do have experience of being judged by my looks, gender and age, so I can connect to the issues that way. I understand what it’s like to be abused, harmed physically and mentally, with the understanding that such treatment came not from the inadequacies or ignorance of my abuser, but were the “fault” of who and what I was.

Government will never be perfect, because it’s created and run by humans, and humans aren’t perfect, but striving for that perfection improves it. So we must and should hold our police departments and governments accountable. Mistakes will still be made — but how do they address those mistakes? How do they work to reduce them?

How do they clean the house?

Make sure your voter registration is up to date and correct, and request an absentee ballot, if you can. If you can’t, tell your state legislators to fix it and don’t take “no” for an answer. And vote, not just in federal elections. As we’re seeing, city, county and state elections make a big difference in how your daily life goes.

All honor & respect to the non-violent protesters exercising their Constitutional rights. I stand beside you, demanding that our system of government do better by all of us.

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Peeing In Humanity’s Pool

It’s not politics. It’s good manners (and being a good person).

Etiquette has always interested me. I noticed as a little kid that there were different rules for different people and situations. Mom pointed out early on that we don’t speak the same way to the minister as we do to friends on the playground. Twirling so your dress flies up and your underwear shows is okay at a dance, but a bad idea at the office.

The etiquette evolving for this time of pandemic interests me. On a purely emotional level, it’s an unpleasant surprise to see how many people think not wearing a mask or distancing is some sort of statement promoting some “cause,” as opposed to simply being a practical thing recommended by experts in medicine, science and public health to slow down the spread of a very contagious new disease.

I suspect many of them are simply terrified. Human beings don’t make our best decisions when we’re scared. The brain stops accepting any new input that’s complicated and we don’t have processing power or time to untangle anything confusing. It’s easier for some people to respond to fear by refusing to believe anything is wrong, because admitting what’s going on means accepting a certain amount of powerlessness.

Why not do the things we know help, like staying home as much as we can until a safe, effective vaccine is available? Why refuse to distance, or wear masks? Those give us what power we have in this situation, so why give them up?

In part, because it’s quickly become part of a person’s identity. Meaning has been attached to taking those steps. They’ve gone from being sensible precautions to personal statements. But in that process, I think some people are mistaking the statements they’re making.

Yes, liberty is important. Freedom is crucial. But they don’t come without cost. We live in a society with other people. The basic deal is that it’s understood we will cooperate for the good of us all. I’m free to drive a car, but not into your living room. I have to take a test, get a license, and obey traffic laws — and I have the right to expect that you will, too. My stopping at a red light protects other drivers (and me). Them stopping protects me (and them). We protect each other.

It’s the liberty bargain. I’m free to exercise by throwing punches — but not at your face. Your face has the right to be unpunched by me. My rights aren’t the only ones that matter. Yours matter, too. You have a right for me not to casually risk exposing you to a potentially deadly disease.

If the only thing masks and distancing accomplished was making some people feel safer during this chaotic time, they’d still be worth wearing. It’s good manners. It’s kind. It’s caring. And if people feel safe, if they see you doing your part to help, they’re more likely to feel safe enough to come out and spend money.

When someone wears a mask or distances during a global pandemic, it’s not a political statement. The statement being made is that this person thinks other people matter enough to protect or comfort them — their own family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, that exhausted nurse or doctor who’s been tending coronavirus patients (and watching people die when they couldn’t be saved), that researcher getting close to finding a vaccine to protect people, that truck driver or grocery clerk risking health and life to keep the groceries coming.

It’s not a flag. It’s not a magic amulet (you have to wear them correctly for them to work — just having one on your person doesn’t protect anyone).

It’s your way of saying whether you’re mature enough to understand that freedom comes with responsibility, kind enough to help other people feel a bit safer in trying times, smart enough to understand that not doing it makes us lock down longer and likely will get us locked down again. You’re willing to do your own bit to help get your community, your country, and your world through the biggest challenge we’re all likely to face in our lifetimes.

So make your statement — but make sure you know what statement you’re really making.

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Welcome to

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. You can see some of our designs in our Redbubble shop, and read Joey’s political humor blog, Dear Donny: Presidential Pen Pals, right here at IdeaJones.

Joey Jones has published and edited many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (like Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s been heard on CapRadio’s four news stations, and sometimes—during fund drives—on the Music Station. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.

We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. Do the work right, and on time. Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.

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“I’m With Stupid, And So Is The Person With Me!”

Scared (or angry) people aren’t really themselves.

Fear makes most people stupid. There’s a reason for that. When “fight or flight” is triggered, the brain/body system focuses on running away, or defense. Your brain can’t, in a very important way, tell the difference between an immediate physical threat (say, a hungry tiger in the room with you) and a threat to your ego (a perceived threat to your idea of who you are, the part of you that’s YOU, not just a body).

When you’re scared or angry, your brain perceives a threat. The heart pumps faster. If it’s bad, your palms may sweat. You might feel hyper-aware. It’s hard to think about anything else, because the brain is prioritizing the older, more basic parts of the system. If you’re running from a fire, say, this is brilliant. Who has time to stand in a burning building wondering how it started, or whether or not you can taste yellow? You have to get out, now!

But when it’s a more generalized threat, say, you’re worried about whether or not the pandemic is erasing your retirement savings, or how long you’ll have to shelter in place, or whether or not there will be another coronavirus surge, your brain still says “Threat? Okay, fight or flight!” This is why stress can be so damaging to the body. Hormones pumping, heart pounding, your body prepares to run from a situation that can’t be solved by running way.

Ironically, running (or walking or bicycling or some sort of exercise) can help avoid some of the effects of ongoing stress. So can mindfulness (guided breathing exercises, for example). Deep breathing is your body/brain regulator. Focusing on something that brings you pleasure, like cheerful music or videos of cute animals, can actually help reduce your stress. Lowering your stress allows your reasoning brain to get a word in, helping you devise strategies to deal with the situation.

This “fight or flight” response explains why, in the face of crisis, some people seem to get a sudden case of stupid, refusing to believe it’s real, or acting in irrational ways. If fear is driving the bus (or anger), the brain/body is only prepared to defend or run. All of its other tools are locked up at the moment.

Forgiving people for being stupid is a useful tool for your toolkit. You can’t reason with someone by attacking — that only drives him further into fight or flight. Remember, a threat to a person’s idea of himself is still a threat. Put someone on the defensive and you might as well yell into your toilet bowl. It accomplishes exactly as much.

And in case he or she simply can’t see reason, forgiving lowers your own stress, making it more likely you’ll be okay and make good choices, so there’s that.

When you have to make a decision, or you’re lost for what to do, take a few deep breaths. Give that thinking part of your brain a chance to weight in. Unless the building’s on fire, in which case, “fight or flight” system, you’re on!

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Making It In The Covid Era

We’re making what we can out of what we have to work with. How about you?

April 14, 2020

Hi! How y’all doin’?

My fifth week of being in medical isolation (isolation from everyone as ordered by a doctor) is winding down, with week 6 on the way. I’m going to need to create a new coloring page for my window! This one is almost filled in.

When I walked in here and closed the door, shutting Mark, our dogs and everyone else on the other side, they thought I might be in here for two weeks. Then two weeks became four, and now it’s open-ended. It’s required some adjustment. I’m sure your life has, too.

I was just talking to someone about how everything has changed. Grocery shopping. No more “Oh, we’re out of X, I’ll just dash down to the store…” No, Mark and I order our groceries two weeks in advance (“What do you think you’ll want for lunch in two weeks?”) and play the food lottery (“Did we get popcorn this time?”). For my friend, going to the store requires that she suit up in a home-grown hazmat suit and line up outside the store to be let in by the bouncers as if she’s trying to get into an exclusive night club. The whole trip she has to worry about people who won’t maintain proper distancing. By the time she gets home, she’s done. It’s exhausting.

Of course, it’s worse for grocery store employees. People who just don’t seem capable of understanding what’s going on are angry and confused, and take it out on the grocery store employees, most of whom are doing their best in a difficult time and hoping not to get sick. Our local grocery store is really doing a good job of contact-free pick up, although the manager of a local Target went off on Mark, somehow thinking Mark would put the staff at risk sitting in his car, masked and gloved, with the windows rolled up, while someone put our order in the trunk of our car.

It’s a surreal time to be alive, ain’t it?

Meantime, although kids who went on Spring Break to party, then got sick, seem not to have talked to their friends, who think the “right to party” the Beastie Boys sang about is actually in the Constitution. They just had to shut down a club open in defiance of shelter-in-place orders. Did those kids have direct word from God that they and everyone they knew was immune? Are they just as dumb as a bag of hair? No idea.

We are for sure seeing who is a team player and who, definitely, is not. Everyone on Team Survival is hanging in there, doing what they can, staying home if they possibly can, physical distancing… and it’s working. Where people are doing that, they’re flattening the curve.

It’s clearly up to us to save each other. God knows the feds aren’t going to, not with Dear Donny at the helm. The thing he’s working hardest at right now is attempting to shift blame. He’s never worked so hard in his life. He wants the states to be responsible for themselves without looking to the federal government for help. Wait — isn’t that why we have a federal government? Our President-at-the-moment is, sadly, about as useful in a crisis as tits on a bicycle.

So we stand together by standing apart. We wash our hands like it’s our holy calling, figure out what meals we can make out of what’s in the cupboard and whatever we were lucky enough to get from the grocery store, don’t go out or gather unless we must, wear our home-made masks when we do, and send this thing back to whatever suburb of hell it came from. When there’s a vaccine, we line up (is anyone still an anti-vaxxer now?), and stick out our arms, our butts, whatever’s required.

And years from now, we sit down kids who weren’t yet born when this happened, and we bore them silly with our survival tales of how we got through the Great Pandemic of 2020. We will have earned that right. Most of us, anyway.

If your story is how you ignored it all and went on partying, please keep quiet. These are impressionable children, and you shouldn’t help make them stupid.

Hang in there, y’all!

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